NYS Gaming Commission Cancels Meeting on MGM’s Yonkers Raceway and Empire City Casino Purchase

The NYS Gaming Commission was expected to announce its decision on MGM’s Yonkers Raceway and Empire City Casino acquisition during today’s canceled meeting

The New York State Gaming Commission announced late last night that it has decided to cancel its Thursday meeting. Among other things, state gaming regulators were expected to discuss today MGM Resorts International’s proposal to acquire Yonkers Raceway and Empire City Casino in Yonkers, New York.

The Gaming Commission said in a late Wednesday Facebook post that its meeting “has been postponed until further notice.” It did not provide further detail on why it has decided to cancel it. In an email to local news outlet The Journal News, Commission spokesman Brad Maione said that the decision was due to “issues with a quorum of members.” It is still unknown when the meeting will take place.

As mentioned earlier, the proposed acquisition of the Yonkers Raceway racetrack and the nearby Empire City Casino was on the Gaming Commission’s Thursday agenda. Las Vegas gaming and hospitality company MGM Resorts International announced last May its intention to buy the two facilities as part of its expansion plans. MGM said it would pay $850-million for the racetrack and the nearby casino.

The casino company needs approval from the NYS Gaming Commission in order to be able to complete the deal. That approval was anticipated to be granted at today’s meeting.

Yonkers Raceway first opened doors in 1899. The racetrack has been owned and managed by the Rooney family since 1972. The nearby Empire City Casino currently runs nearly 5,300 video-lottery terminals, but MGM reportedly nurtures hopes to turn that facility into a full-scale casino.

MGM’s Plan for New York

MGM has remained tight-lipped as to what its plans for the racetrack and the nearby gaming facility include. In addition, the Gaming Commission has not released any details of the casino operator’s application, despite criticism from the New York State Committee on Open Government.

Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano said last month that he has met with MGM representatives on a number of occasions since the deal was announced and that he believes the company has plans for a hotel and entertainment venue. The official further noted that while MGM was clearly guarded about its plans for the two facilities, it has promised it has “huge plans.”

Bearing in mind the company’s portfolio of properties, it will probably seek a license for a full-scale, Las Vegas-style casino games. However, under New York’s gambling law, the issuance of such licenses is not set to happen until 2023.

In addition, MGM has shown interest to extend its presence in the lucrative US sports betting market, most recently with gambling partnerships with Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, and the National Hockey League.

A bill calling for the legalization of sports betting in New York was filed in mid-December and was referred to the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee to be discussed during the 2019 legislative session, which is set to convene on January 9.

Sen. John Addabbo, the incoming Chairman of the Committee, spearheaded the piece of legislation. Generally speaking, it allows for mobile betting on the state’s territory and includes a payout to professional sports leagues. The bill also requires licensed operators to purchase “official data” from the leagues or third-party partners.

With few exceptions, gambling is prohibited in New York. This means that the state’s current gambling law will have to be amended to allow gambling expansion in order for Sen. Addabbo’s bill to be able to take effect.

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